MILFORD – The State Ethics Commission has discovered that two Milford officials likely violated state conflict of interest law when selling land to a private social club in town that every man helped to establish.
Last Thursday, letters describing the violations were sent to former Milford Select board member William Kingkade and current Milford finance committee member Christopher Morin after the commission found reasonable grounds for violating conflict of interest law when land has been sold to the Milford Club. , LLC, a private real estate company co-owned by Morin.
The land was to be used for the Greater Milford Social Club – a group in which Morin and Kingkade were involved.
Morin served on the city’s finance committee for approximately eight years, including approximately four as chair. Kingkade was a member of the city’s board of directors from April 2015 to April 2021.
The ethics commission said in the letters that the two men chose to resolve the allegations by publishing them in letters rather than through legal proceedings, as this would better serve the public and allow them to avoid further penalties. severe.
Kingkade and Morin each agreed to resolve the allegations with the letters and waived their rights to a commission hearing, according to the letters.
Morin told the Daily News on Wednesday he accepted the letter as a resolution “instead of a silly fight.”
“It was completely and totally politically motivated,” he said, “and if I had to say, it’s embarrassing. as mandated by the city spent $ 2,000 to develop the lot. Now the lot is on the tax roll and the Town of Milford will receive property taxes on this lot in perpetuity.
Morin said he and Kingkade followed the advice of the town’s lawyer and took the appropriate steps to acquire the property.
The news overshadows the positive impact the Greater Milford Social Club has since had on the community by supporting organizations in the area like the Milford Public Schools Food Service Program, New Hope Women’s Shelter and the Aaron Zenus Foundation, Morin added. When the group learned last Christmas that the local Toys for Tots program would not be delivering toys to children, the group raised $ 9,000 in eight hours to get there, he said.
“This is a political witch hunt to defame the people of this town,” Morin said. “They like going to the Ethics Commission because it’s completely anonymous. And that’s the only way these people do things.”
Kingkade, who is no longer an elected official, said that when he took training on ethics laws, officials were told that they did not need to mention knowledge for issues such as the sale of land, as officials get to know so many residents in the course of their work.
Going forward, he believes the commission will spell out more clearly in its training how to avoid breaking these laws, especially in a tight-knit community like Milford where everyone seems to know each other, he said.
Nonetheless, Kingkade said he was not complaining about receiving the letter.
“I have been a public servant for over 20 years and I respect the process – it was very thorough and it was nice to work with the commission,” he told the Daily News.
In 2019, Kingkade and Morin began working on the opening of the Greater Milford Social Club with other city officials including Joshua Lioce, member of the Board of Assessors, Paul Pellegrini, member of the Parks Commission, and the former construction commissioner Matt Marcotte.
Following:Opening of a new social club in Milford
About a month after founding the social club, the group was in the process of purchasing the former Foggiano Club property at 28 Granite Street to make it the club’s site, according to the commission.
Meanwhile, Morin learned from the Milford Club, LLC lender that the property encroached on a small 0.073-acre (less than 3,200 square feet) piece of land owned by the city, according to the commission. The lender asked the LLC to resolve the issue by purchasing the parcel from the city, receiving a waiver from the city, or removing a small structure on the city parcel before the LLC purchase of the property. can be finalized.
After a survey of Milford city departments found no municipal need for the parcel, city council determined that the Select Board could report the parcel’s surplus, according to the commission.
At a restricted board meeting on April 8, 2019, Kingkade, then a board member, proposed to the city to declare the land surplus, then offered to sell it by direct disposition to butters rather than through a public auction.
Kingkade has not publicly disclosed his close personal friendship with Morin, nor that he was a founding member of the Greater Milford Social Club with an interest in the club, nor that town land was purchased for the club.
His two motions were carried unanimously.
The letters from the commission state that after the board of directors authorized the sale, Morin submitted an offer to the city on behalf of the Milford Club, LLC, to purchase the property, then signed the purchase agreement and sales on behalf of the Milford Club, LLC.
“The conflict of interest law prohibits municipal employees from formally participating in matters in which they or the professional organizations with which they are partners have a financial interest,” the commission said in the letters. As Kingkade was a partner of the Greater Milford Social Club when he participated as a selected member of the board of directors in declaring the town plot as surplus and in authorizing its sale, which was in financial interest to the club , the commission found reasonable grounds to believe that he had violated the conflict of interest thus participating.
In addition, state law prohibits public employees from acting in a manner that gives the impression that they are likely to act with favoritism or bias in the performance of an official function, said the Commission. The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Kingkade violated this ban by acting officially regarding the sale of the town’s plot given his friendship with Morin and his affiliation with the Greater Milford Social Club.
The commission also says Kingkade violated this ban in 2016 and 2018 by voting to appoint two friends to city posts.
Following:The petition began to recall Milford manager William Kingkade
The commission also found reasonable grounds to believe that Morin violated conflict of interest law by submitting the offer to the city and signing the purchase and sale contract on behalf of the Milford Club, LLC, while by having a financial interest in the sale of the surplus. city plot.
The committee encourages officials to contact its legal division at 617-371-9500 for free advice or questions on how conflict of interest law may apply to them.
Lauren Young writes about business and pop culture. Contact her at 774-804-1499 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @laurenwhy__.